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Wednesday, October 27, 2021


I continue to find every page of Charles Mills's book brilliant. By the way, S. Wallerstein is quite wrong about the book. Mills says relatively little about America in it – his focus is mostly on European thought. It is a great sadness to me that I am unable to tell Charles how much I am enjoying re-reading his book and how important I believe it is.  Students who stay with me through this course are in for a treat.


Ludwig Richter said...

A few years ago I had the good fortune to attend a one-day seminar he taught at the University of Washington. My overall impression is that he was not only brilliant (of course), but also just fun to listen to: a witty, agile, incisive intelligence at work.

LFC said...

Haven't read The Racial Contract but looked at the opening pp just now (on Amazon 'look inside' feature). Its brevity is commendable and makes me more likely to read the bk sometime than if it were long.

I wonder -- from a standpoint of ignorance inasmuch as, again, I haven't read the book -- re Mills saying relatively little about America: if he had addressed the U.S. civil rights movement, would that have changed the argument in any way? The very opening pp suggest that white supremacy as a "political system" was something of which whites were unaware or took for granted, which may well be true as a broad generalization, but maybe not with respect to some of its more extreme manifestations, e.g. in the Jim Crow era in the U.S. South. But in a bk mainly about Western political theory and its shortcomings, I guess the emphasis on European thought makes sense.

s. wallerstein said...

Obviously, Mills will talk about European political thought because Amerikan political thought is based on that.

When you talk about a thinker's importance, as Professor Wolff does in the case of Mills,
the word "importance" can have several different meanings. One has to do with their influence and it seems obvious to me that Marcuse has been more influential than Mills throughout the world. A quick google check indicates that Mills has not even been translated into Spanish, while as I point out above, Marcuse has been translated into Spanish (and into many other languages) and is still read in South America today.

However, one can talk about a writer who few read as being important and thus, if Professor Wolff means that Mills is important, but unfortunately overlooked, he may be right.

Finally, U.S. racism is very unique. Not only was there slavery, but also segregation and Jim Crow, not to mention the one drop rule, which has no equivalent, as far as I know, in Latin America, where there is a lot of racism, but very different.

In addition,the theory of the social contract is very important in traditional U.S. political theory: when I was in high school, we were taught about the U.S. Constitution as the product of a sort of social contract: no one mentioned that the only participants were white and males.

In a country like Chile, which is typical of most of Latin America, no one in their right mind has ever claimed that there was a social contract since it's obvious to all that
the Spanish colonized and dominated a mainly indigenous population and that independence from Spain only served to reinforce the domination of the ex-colonial elite over indigenous and mestizo people.

So a criticism of social contract theory such as Mills does not seem applicable in Latin America and probably mainly is applicable to U.S. reality.

james wilson said...

Here's an intellectual biography of Mills. It was published at Sidecar this morning:

Jerry Brown said...

Way off topic, but the NY Times has a quiz about how self-compassionate you might be. I think I'm too self-compassionate to take a quiz that might reveal a lack of self-compassion. Whatever that means.

Maybe some more courageous people might have an opinion about the self-compassion test?

Anonymous said...

I have too much self-compassion to look at the NYT. ;)

Michael said...

The NYT quiz is behind a paywall. I assume it's pretty much the same as the one here:

My overall score: 1.82 (1 to 5 scale). I can't say I'm shocked; I've been in therapy for this sort of thing for a long time. But also, the quiz items themselves read to me like so many variations on, "True or false: I am self-compassionate." (E.g., "I'm tolerant of my own flaws and inadequacies." "When I'm going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.")

But I'll keep clicking around on the page to see if anything else grabs me. Philosophers puzzle over what to make of self-deception, self-consciousness, etc., so it might also be an interesting challenge to get straight on the meaning of "self-compassion," e.g. on whether it'd be nonsensical to characterize it by analogy to ("just plain") compassion.

JR said...

Re: In Defense of Anarchism
In Wikipedia's list of philosophical anarchists your name is conspicuous by it absence. I don't know how to correct this or I would. But someone knowledgeable in the ways of amending Wiki articles ought to do so. Bakunin and Kropotkin would weep if they knew you were not in their company.

Eric said...

A contributor named "Czar" removed Prof Wolff from the article text in Feb 2018.

Prior to that, Prof Wolff had been mentioned since the article's creation in 2013. The present version of the article does still cite a source that mention's Wolff's In Defense of Anarchism.

Anonymous said...

In passing, Todd Gitlin was one of the intiiators of this:

LFC said...

@ s.w.

Charles Mills has not been "overlooked" -- that word is not apt, I think.

According to the link below, The Racial Contract has sold 50,000 copies since its publication in 1997, and in 2022 Cornell U.P. is planning to bring out a 25th anniv. edition (and I assume it still plans to, despite Mills's passing).

Maris Ferguson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LFC said...

P.s. on C. Mills: though it may be the case that he has been read mainly in the U.S. and Canada -- and perhaps not that much elsewhere. I don't know, but that's certainly possible.

Magpie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.